Bullpen shuts door to preserve win

Bullpen shuts door to preserve win

CINCINNATI -- Padres closer Heath Bell was finally back on the mound, even if he may have needed a compass to locate it. After all, with only four Padres wins in July, Bell and his relievers haven't had many chances to secure victories.

But they finally got that chance on Tuesday against the Reds. After starter Kevin Correia exited after the sixth inning, the Padres scored in the seventh and the bullpen completely shut down the Reds offense en route to a 3-2 win.

Relievers Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams and Bell struck out seven of the final nine batters they faced and gave Correia the victory, snapping the Padres' three-game losing streak and giving them their fifth win of the month.

"It was unbelievable," Correia said of the Padres' bullpen. "I don't think you could have had three better innings. In a close game when you're looking for a chance at a win, that's what you're hoping for."

Correia was impressive himself. Coming off his shortest outing of the season, in which he allowed eight runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Phillies, Correia buckled down early and threw six solid innings.

"After a bad start you want to get back to a good one as soon as possible," Correia said. "I'm glad I turned it around tonight."

Correia looked as if he wouldn't rebound from that start early. He gave up two runs through three innings and had a high pitch count early.

"Kevin hung in there," Padres manager Bud Black said. "I was a little worried early in the game due to the pitch count and long second inning. But he knuckled down and made pitches when he had to."

Correia maneuvered his way through his final three innings without allowing another run. He left with the game tied at 2, but that quickly changed.

Tony Gwynn led off the seventh with a double to right field. He advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by David Eckstein. Reds starter Bronson Arroyo then intentionally walked Adrian Gonzalez, who had already drilled his 27th homer in the third to tie the game. After reliever Nick Masset replaced Arroyo, Kevin Kouzmanoff hit a fly ball to right field to drive in Gwynn with the go-ahead run.

With a 2-for-3 performance, Kouzmanoff is now 11-for-16 against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo in his career.

"I think this is more indicative of our style," Black said of the Padres' seventh. "When we do those little things, we get a chance to win. That's what you saw tonight."

Yet the game wasn't over, especially with the Padres holding just a one-run lead. Just last Sunday, the bullpen lost a 3-2 game to the Nationals.

This time, they slammed the door shut.

Gregerson came in and struck out two of the three batters he faced. Adams then struck out the side in the eighth.

"We had our breaking stuff working," Bell said. "We did our homework in the scouting report. I don't think we wanted to let what happened in D.C. happen again."

And Bell made sure it didn't with two more strikeouts to earn his first save since July 18.

Steve Gartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.